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Digital Transformation in San Diego's Code Enforcement

Jun 5, 2020 6:25:10 AM

Code enforcement in San Diego is changing. One of the most important roles in every community, code enforcement officers are tasked with the critical role of making sure communities are properly maintained and residents have a safe place to live, day in and day out. 

But digital transformation has left little untouched, and municipal governing is now part of this change.

The historical code enforcement process is manual and paper-based

Code enforcement officers typically spend their days evaluating, educating and enforcing local codes. This might be through issuing warnings or citations, but often involves answering questions and providing guidance. The typical code enforcement process begins with a phone call to submit a report that contains the code violation type, location and description.

Then, the city’s code enforcement officer makes in-person inspections throughout the city to identify potential violations, and if there’s a violation, the officer will take further enforcement action -- usually a written notice of the violation and a set period of time (usually 5-30 days in length) to correct. 

After this time has passed, city staff will re-inspect the property to confirm the resolution of this problem. If the code violation isn’t resolved at the end of the time period, the property owner will receive an additional notice indicating that the property will be abated or the owner will receive a citation.

This means the property owner must appear in front of the municipal court, which may result in further penalties. Often, this entire process uses paper and pen -- code enforcement officers still use paper forms and clipboards in the field, relying on physical paperwork to track their days and records. 

San Diego’s new approach to code enforcement 

Launched in 2016, the city of San Diego has computerized its code violation system with the Get it Done! app to digitally manage permitting, licensing and code enforcement. In 2018, the city of San Diego computerized its code violation tracking system that allowed workers to spot and pinpoint sewage leaks, abandoned properties, excessive noise, illegal garage conversions and vehicle repair within residential areas. 

This digital transformation is expanding the municipality’s current annual caseload of around 5,000 complaints, and residents will soon be able to report code compliance violations on the Get it Done! app, allowing for further increase of bandwidth, increased convenience, transparency, and ease. 

San Diego’s shift from paper to computerized case records and data management has brought on many new innovations for the future of the city -- and while it’s main benefit here is to “compile cases and make them available online” so they can be tracked by the person who filed the complaint and the person who allegedly violated city code, it’s also mitigating many of the industry’s classic pain points -- endless paper trails, overstuffed filing cabinets and missing documents that have been misplaced in a sea of paperwork. 

Now, the San Diego residents can report on and manage reporting on illegal activity, code and enforcement violations.

Emerging technology in land development

For municipalities and residents, there’s an ever-present battle against scarce resources and the amount of work that needs to be done. Digital transformation across industries is critical for many reasons -- not to mention the recent global shift to remote work -- and regardless of why digital transformation is occurring, it’s essential that businesses realign strategy and operations to reflect the current state of the industry.  

With many digital permitting solutions for governments on the marketplace, such as Accela and BasicGov, residents should be ready to reflect this digitization on our end. From the current manual code enforcement process to a digital one, governments and residents can leverage automation, machine learning and cloud computing to streamline the paper trail processes. 

Digital permitting enforcement also allows for transparency on the resident-end, giving residents and citizens access into community payment carts, insight into their permitting and inspection processes, and real-time updates of code enforcement. 

So in land development, a widely variable intersection of realtors, engineers, construction and architectures, the digital transformation has taken roots through many new solutions and tools on the market. Here are a few growing land development tools that have emerged for both public and private sector use: 

  • Permit Software helps governments and municipalities with the process of issuing, tracking and renewing approvals for regulated activities and industries, including land management and land use. 
  • Code Enforcement Software is used by governments for enforcing compliance with municipal code requirements through record maintenance, inspection scheduling, tracking and distributing violations, and issuing warnings. These are used by governments to manage the essential processes tied to code enforcement and licensing/permitting. 
  • Land Management Software is a type of tool that enables businesses to handle their land permitting, rights, inspections, and surface leases. This often includes features that support zoning, plan review and approval, and code enforcement automation. 
  • Construction Management Software, specifically created for construction and real estate organizations, provides these firms with end-to-end solutions for managing the project or property lifecycle. 

Next Steps for Digital Transformation in Land Development

With a new slew of tools for land development professionals and municipalities to get their hands on, there’s been a re-setting of “normality” for the industry and our futures. As governments and private organizations alike call for data-driven decision-making, digital technologies will play an ever-increasing role in everyday land management and municipal life. 

With the increasing rise of digitization in land development and land use on the municipal side, it only makes sense for residents and land development professionals to reflect this. There are many construction, architecture, engineering and real estate software for professionals, from code and regulation search engines to GIS mapping and utility asset management software.

Regardless of what and how you choose to transform your business operations, you should take careful time and consideration when evaluating your options and deciding on the best pick for you. Often, once people start to use a specific software, they are locked in purely for convenience and ease -- it’s worth fronting time into research to save you pain down the line. 

Not sure how to start evaluating different digitally transformed land development tools? You can check out the buyer’s guide to land development software, or try using an online community like Gartner.

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